An intriguing idea, watching color films in B&W.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Inspector Hammer!, Mar 4, 2002.

  1. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    I was watching Ebert and Roeper a couple of weeks ago, and Ebert read a letter from a guy who was asking if it was crazy to watch color films in B&W. Well, Ebert replied no, it wasn't crazy at all, in fact, he said, it can sometimes make a film better, especially if it's one that's already great like 'Memento'.
    Has anyone done this, and if so, how was the experience? I think I may try it with 'Memento' at least once. Me, I think it's a little unusual, but i'll try anything once.
     
  2. Bill J

    Bill J Producer

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    I prefer to watch films as they were meant to be seen. In my opinion, watching a color film in black and white is ALMOST as bad as watching it in pan&scan.
     
  3. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    That actually occured to me too, if I watch a film that's meant by the director to bee seen in color, I am altering the original intent.
     
  4. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    It would make for an interesting study, but it would be far from fair to JUDGE the work based on a incorrect presentation.

    Just like playing Memento in chrono order could be interesting, but isn't the true artistic work.

    I suppose some interesting aspects of the lighting might come through primarily, but since it was originally lighted for color you would have to wonder how much of that was intentional.

    It might show TRENDS in filmmaking. I mean basically you are isolating one (or a few) aspect of the film from the rest, similar to listening ONLY to the score or only the sound effects (bug's life), etc.

    It's not WRONG at all, just don't call it watching the film as a whole. Like I wouldn't say I "prefer" to watch it that way because that's how I like it. I prefer to see what was intended, but if isolating some aspect gives me great appreciation of the whole, then certainly it is worthwhile to explore.
     
  5. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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  6. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Ken, i'm a little confused about your statement, can you please explain what you mean? Thanks.
     
  7. Bill J

    Bill J Producer

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    Yeah, I am confused too. Would you please clarify?
     
  8. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    John, I believe Ken is referring to the fact that NTSC doesn't have nearly the depth of color that film does.
     
  9. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Got it thanks.
     
  10. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    You &#$@% guys remind me of my 20 year old daughter when she was young. I would try to watch reruns of Leave it to Beaver on Nicelodeon and other fare from the 50's and 60's but she was not buying it. She said "Daddy, I hate gray TV!"
    I did not realize the great artistic opportunity that was afforded me growing up prior to 1965 when most TV shows went over to color. Before that we got to watch all movies in Black and White. Plus all the baseball and football telecasts. I didn't realize what experience I was failing to enjoy.
    All I could do was complain to my parents that "I hate gray TV!"
     
  11. Chauncey_G

    Chauncey_G Second Unit

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    A little off-tpic, but...
    Back in my days of abject poverty (college), I had a wonderful bit of personal triumph thanks to my tiny, black-and-white TV. They were showing something like "Miracle on 34th Street" colorized. What would have disgusted me under normal circumstances brought a smile to my face. I had no choice but to watch the colorized version of this film in black-and-white. [​IMG]
    One needs to be thankful for the little things.
     
  12. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Well...

    It's a good idea to see how important color is.

    Would The Wizard of Oz be a very different film if it was seen in B&W. The ruby slippers are now dark grey slippers.

    Yellow Submarine...you'd see a pale grey submarine.

    Help!...sacrificees have to be painted red...wait...they're using grey!

    Keep color in color and B&W in B&W.
     
  13. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    This brings to mind a curious experience I had years ago. I had never seen Enter the Dragon so I rented the VHS version. I didn't pay much attention to the specs listed on the box. Anyway, I popped it in the VCR but didn't realize someone had turned down the color settings on our television. Of course, I watched the entire movie in black & white without realizing it was actually a color film! It wasn't until later that I figured that out. Upon reflection, I think that EtD is actually a more visceral film in black & white. I now wish it had been filmed that way!
     
  14. Scott H

    Scott H Supporting Actor

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    I used to do this when studying a particular film's cinematography. Watching films with the sound off is very common too. When you remove the chroma you can better see the contrast and exposure. This is one reason that I prefer video cameras that have B&W viewfinders to those with color ones.

    I don't believe you can make an analogy to P&S or how the filmmakers intended it to be seen because something like this is usually done in the context of study and not done with ignorance (well, at least before Ebert brought it up). One you have viewed a film as intended, what is wrong with breaking it down? Film students and filmmakers do it all the time.
     
  15. Gabe D

    Gabe D Cinematographer

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    I don't see any problem with breaking it down like that. It reminds me of the many times I have listened to only the left or right side of stereo music, especially Beatles stuff. Studying the parts can definitely give one a new appreciation of the whole.
     
  16. Jay E

    Jay E Cinematographer

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    The only films I've watched where I have turned the color off is for Mystery of the Wax Museum and Doctor X. These were made using 2 strip Technicolor and I really didn't like the way they looked on laser, very artificial, almost like colorized films. I prefer to watch them in black & white as they are much more atmospheric and creepy that way.
     
  17. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    Ebert's preference for B&W film photography is no secret. But considering how anti-P&S this guy is, to say something like this is totally hypocritical.
    Watching a colour film in B&W is just as bad as watching a B&W film colourized, since you would not be seeing the artist's intent.
    Shame on you, Mr. Ebert. [​IMG]
     
  18. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Well, it is interesting that you chose to Memento as an example. I think Memento has some very effective uses of both color and sepia/black and white that are used to enhance the film. There is the wonderful separation of the chronological section of the film with the reversed section of the film, denoted by the use of color. And then you get the fantastic merging of the two as the photograph develops. So, no, I think that would be a film that would be better as it was originally conceived.

    I think the Man Who Wasn't There is an excellent example of how films can be shot when they are intended to be shown in black and white. Watching the same film in color, which if I understand correctly happened for some by mistake in a few theaters, the film is not the same. By watching a color film in B&W, you're robbing the cinematographer and color timer of one of the tools that he has to bring the story to you.

    In terms of deviation from the original artistic intent, I think it falls somewhere here:

    Edited for Content

    Altered Chronology (Memento as an example)

    Pan and Scan

    Colorized (B&W original)

    B&W (Color original)

    Encoding sound in 5.1

    OAR and OSR

    Now that's just my chart, and others may disagree. I think it would be a mistake to watch films in B&W that weren't filmed that way.
     
  19. paul_v

    paul_v Second Unit

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    I think Shindler's List wouldn't have been the same in color. I think a lot of Directors would use black and white more but B&W would lose some audience. Also oddly enough I heard that B&W film is actually more expensive these days.
     
  20. Gabe D

    Gabe D Cinematographer

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    I'll add that I agree that it's absurd to watch it in b&w instead of watching it in color. However, as I said before, I can see where it would have merit as a way to break a film down into its parts. (A film that you have already watched in color.)
     

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